*This article has been updated to include a comment from Boone County prosecutor Dan Knight.
COLUMBIA — Federal investigators are stepping into the Brandon Coleman case after a complaint was filed with the U.S. Department of Justice. Last week, Boone County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Knight announced his decision not to press charges against the man who shot Coleman.
Mary Ratliff, president of Missouri's NAACP chapter, contacted the Justice Department and expressed her disagreement with the decision, instigating the federal investigation. Ratliff said that Knight made an unjust decision in the eyes of the community.
"Whenever we receive this type of complaint, there is a specific process we follow," said Don Ledford, public affairs officer for Tammy Dickinson, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Missouri. "This will not be different. We will investigate the case seriously and thoroughly."
The investigation aims to determine whether there is a federal case and will be conducted by the FBI, the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Missouri.
"The fact that we are involved should not be interpreted in any way that we are second-guessing the Boone County prosecutor," Ledford said.
On May 19, Coleman was killed after an altercation with Rolland Deacon. Rolland Deacon's son, Dustin Deacon, came out of the house and shot at Coleman four times after seeing Coleman with a gun pointed at Rolland Deacon's head. Rolland Deacon was holding a machete-like knife in his hand, according to a report released by Knight.
Knight determined that Dustin Deacon was legally justified to shoot Coleman under the Missouri self-defense or defense-of-another laws.
“Brandon Coleman and his group walked towards the Deacons' residence to force a fight," Knight said Thursday. "Rolland Deacon tried to get them to leave, then Brandon Coleman illegally pointed his loaded handgun at Rolland Deacon’s head and threatened to kill him. At that point, Dustin Deacon shot Brandon Coleman in lawful defense of Rolland Deacon.”
Winona Coleman-Broadus, Brandon Coleman's mother, expressed enthusiasm that the case would be investigated.
"I feel hopeful and excited that the case has not reached a dead end and that there's a possibility of justice for Brandon," she said.
Coleman-Broadus and Ratliff said they think that Coleman's death was race-related and that an arrest should have been made.
"We believe that this crime was racially motivated," Ratliff said. "The evidence points to racial motives."
Ledford confirmed that race is one of many factors that will be investigated. He said it is too early to speculate whether the investigation will lead to trial and will depend whether the investigation goes a criminal or civil route.
"It's important that we don't forecast any outcomes or what direction the case may be headed," Ledford said.
The NAACP and Coleman-Broadus said they will meet soon to plan their next steps. Ratliff said they will continue rallying until they get justice.
"I hope this inspires the Columbia Police Department and Prosecuting Attorney Dan Knight to be more fair in the future," Coleman-Broadus said. "We shouldn't have to go to the FBI to handle our cases and seek justice."
Supervising editor is Stephanie Ebbs.